Beijing Journal: A Live, Day-By-Day Account From Backstage At The 2008 Olympics

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Beijing Journal: A Live, Day-by-Day Account from Backstage at the 2008 Olympics

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Thank you for notifying us. The page you are attempting to access contains content that is not intended for underage readers. This item has not been rated yet. This is veteran network audio engineer Mark Butler's inside view of Beijing during the Summer Olympics, the real story behind the story. It's an absolute MUST-READ for anyone who loves sports, and those who want to learn about the backstage miracles that bring world-class sporting events to your home.

This unassuming little book is also a remarkable feat of sports journalism powered by new publishing technologies. The author, Mark Butler, sent reports from Beijing by e-mail, plus original photos, day by day. They were combined, one by one, into this book.

By design, these raw, in-the-moment insights were largely preserved as written. The final journal entry was originally dated August 23, For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. Media events and communication technology are inexorably tied. The success of a media event relies on communication technology as a means of connecting the audience to a live event.

For, as Dayan and Katz write: The broadcasting of the same message to geographically dispersed audience members not only connects the audience to the event but also connects audience member to audience member. Audience member awareness of technology-enabled copresence at a mass scale has the potential to galvanize the audience Dayan and Katz , and endow the event with a grandeur and importance that local events and smaller media broadcasts cannot achieve. Such shared experiences contribute to the power of media events to unite nation-states and, as examples such as Live 8 and Live Earth [1] have demonstrated, to unite, albeit ephemerally, populations across the globe.

The Olympic Games unify the audience both within nation-states, as athletes compete for national glory and recognition, and globally, as audiences share in the experience of watching sports competitions and ceremonies, as well as learning about the culture, politics, and heritage of Olympic host cities. Historically, media events have also provided an impetus for technological development as event organizers, sponsors, and broadcasters established deadlines or provided other incentives for accomplishment. This trend can clearly be seen in the Beijing Olympics.

Established communication technology yields a slightly different pattern as the media event provides the opportunity for greater implementation or diffusion. Beijing appears to conform to this trend as well. Lu Xuewu , associate president of the Communication University of China, has explained that broadcasting key events in the Beijing Olympics in high definition is expected to spark greater demand for HDTV both within China and internationally. Like other Olympics before it, the Beijing Games has created a narrative surrounding the event that emphasizes progressive technology.

Technology has been a central component of the Beijing Games since the bid was first constructed: Hogan found a similar pattern in her analysis of the Japanese Winter Olympics in Nagano. This binary seems particularly important for Asian Olympic hosts, as Atsushi Tajima and Haugen and Collins in this volume suggest. These countries use the universal narrative of technology to conform to the globalizing and homogenizing Olympic discourse of progress and peace, while simultaneously including a flare of multicultural color via self-orientalizing representations of the past.

And, though it may not have been planned that way, this sector offers an important means of redefining what it means for something to be Made in China. Lenovo is one of the top personal computer manufacturers in the world, and the largest in the Asia-Pacific region. The company was founded in by a group of eleven engineers in Beijing. The former English name of the company was the Legend Group Ltd.

This is a narrative about the ability to launch and implement a new system. Athletes and staff would also use 3G technology to access information related to the Games. Here—as with the question of whether Beijing will meet air-quality standards—the story is one of nail-biting anticipation: However, these nascent Created in China Su narratives, part of an overall Brand China emphasizing intellectual and technological leadership over cheap mass production, are delicate and could easily be destroyed if evidence is found that discredits or challenges them via the construction of technology-enabled counternarratives.

The goals that have been set are tough and, as the Lenovo and 3G stories unfold, the path to success continues to be tenuous. The twentieth century Olympics have been characterized by a modern discourse of technological innovation. They have provided the host country with an opportunity to prove itself to the world as a modern force in a global event.

There are established examples of Olympic host cities associating their country with modernity and progress by using new communication technology to extend the Olympic audience.


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Through IOC archival data, we learn that the Amsterdam Games of used state-of-the-art telephone and telegraph systems for immediate transmission of Olympic news Netherlands Olympic Committee The Los Angeles Olympics of used radio broadcasting extensively to distribute news about the Games: In each of these examples, communication technology was used to create a greater sense of immediacy; extend the Olympic message to an ever-larger audience; and demonstrate the technological capacity, excellence, and modernity of the host city and country.

At the same time, broadcasting dramatically shifted the role of the Olympic audience: The Olympics in London, the first Summer Games to be held after Berlin, heavily relied on broadcasting to create a global presence.

A IOC report about communications technology suggests a tone that reverberates through to Beijing:. The XIV Olympiad was the greatest sporting festival that had ever been staged and the progress and results of the Olympic events were of interest to millions of people throughout the world. As only a small number out of those millions was able to be at the Games in person, radio had to provide the rest with the nearest equivalent to front row seats whenever and wherever anything exciting was happening.

In fact, they were often better off than the spectator, because he could be in only one place at once, whereas the radio listener could visit half-a-dozen venues in as many minutes and could travel from Empress Hall to Torbay at the turn of a single knob. In the s, television coverage of the Games became integral to the Olympics as a mega media event Roche , and the mass media audience became essential to the financial and cultural success of the Olympic Games.

We have already suggested the important association between technological innovation and the Beijing Olympics. With an estimated audience of 4 billion Lenovo , the Beijing Olympics is expected to provide an opportunity for China to show off its best and brightest technological advancements to the rest of the world. The Olympics is about China as technological innovator, with the Games furnishing an impetus to develop and innovate information technology to showcase at the event: Consistent with its claim of inclusion and service to the world, BOCOG explained that technological development in preparation for the Games would benefit not only the Chinese, and not only those who come to visit the Games.

Lenovo, then, must be understood as both an emerging global brand and as an important representative of the Chinese government. While TOP partner status confers significant privileges, it is also an extraordinary responsibility.


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The pressure to construct successful and mature campaigns that will resonate with both a global and a domestic Chinese audience is immense. Despite this branding agreement, Lenovo has primarily featured the Lenovo brand rather than the IBM brand in recent years. Today, Lenovo is seeking to build brand recognition outside of China and to maintain sales within China. Although it is among the top PC manufacturers in the world, Lenovo has thus far failed to connect with the important North American market and is, in fact, facing a declining market share in this region Spencer and Fowler In March , Dell introduced an inexpensive PC in China that was intended to directly challenge Lenovo, whose success in China was largely due to the sales of inexpensive computers Lower To fend off declining domestic brand loyalty and establish global brand awareness, Lenovo has committed significant resources to sponsorship of sporting events, including the Olympics, the National Basketball Association NBA , and Formula One.

The broadband solution refers to the ability of sports sponsorship to: While the NBA sponsorship was primarily designed to promote much-needed brand awareness in North America, the Beijing Olympic campaign was designed with a multiplicity of audiences in mind, a significant portion of which are already aware of the Lenovo brand.

Lenovo used the same brand trust-building strategy at the Winter Olympics in Torino in what could be seen as a trial run for the Games. Lenovo considers its Torino marketing strategy a success because the Lenovo equipment operated error-free, thus promoting Lenovo as a powerful Created in China alternative to other computer manufacturers Xie Although Torino was a triumph, Lenovo acknowledges that the Beijing Games represent a far more strenuous test of their products.

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The Torino Games hosted 2, athletes in 84 events at 15 competition sites; the Beijing Games are expected to host 10, athletes in events at 39 competition sites Lenovo The technological infrastructure demands of the Olympic Games, daunting in and of themselves, will be tested in front of a much larger global audience than in the Winter Games. Whereas only 80 nations participated in Torino, nations are expected to participate in Beijing, and the number of accredited journalists is expected to double, from 10, in Torino to 20, in Beijing Lenovo Like other multinational corporations, Lenovo must pursue dual strategies.

Within China, and its huge market, the strategy is quite different. The company must touch a personal nerve, making its success relate to the ambition of individuals who see themselves as part of a collective and advancing social whole. Domestic promotional activities seek to extend brand awareness from technologically advanced cosmopolitan cities such as Beijing and Shanghai to the rest of China. In these road shows the nation-state legitimizes Lenovo just as Lenovo legitimizes the nation-state.

In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, Lenovo is attempting to present itself as both a Chinese company and as a global company. The two categories are not mutually exclusive. If Lenovo, the global company with Chinese roots and an American head office, is the most prominent international public face, then the Created in China narrative loses much of its impact.

In fact, one could argue that this version of Lenovo would conform more to the Made in China narrative where China is the support mechanism for the innovations that take place in the American head office. If, on the other hand, Lenovo, the Chinese company with global aspirations and global offices, is the most prominent international public face, then the Created in China narrative is strengthened as Chinese ingenuity and quality is shown to have created a global demand that must be met by the construction of multinational bases of operation. The unveiling of this torch—an aluminum torch resembling a scroll of paper—garnered international media attention, and suggests that Lenovo intends to package itself for international audiences at least partly as a Chinese company.

While the outside of the torch was designed by Lenovo, the internal flame system was designed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Group. To scale the mountain successfully, the torch will have to withstand low air temperatures, high wind, and low air pressure Lei The torch nicely represents a triad of the techno-narrative simultaneously symbolizing the historical inventiveness of China through the scroll design, the current inventiveness of China through the Lenovo-created design, and the future inventiveness of China through the unprecedented burning mechanism.

The Lenovo-spearheaded Created in China narrative is ultimately a fragile narrative that is dependent not only on the technology that Lenovo manufactures, but also on the policies that the Chinese government pursues. In the spring and summer of , concerns about Chinese quality control in products ranging from pet food to toothpaste and toys dominated international media coverage of China.

China is one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets in the world. Currently, there are more than million mobile phone users in China, and this number is increasing by 5 million users a month Bremner ; Chandler The largest mobile phone provider is China Mobile, which is controlled by the Ministry of Information Industry. But in mid, with testing of platforms and standards still under way—and no clear end in sight—the narrative implications have changed: Will China be able to fulfill these technological aspirations and permit and achieve the infrastructure for a meaningful advance in the way people receive and experience the Olympic Games?

One question, one narrative outcome, is how China deals administratively with these aspects of technological change. There is no worldwide standard platform for 3G. China is not only competing at the Olympics for gold medals but is also competing with other technological standards for global market dominance.

In addition, much of the core intellectual property of TD-SCDMA is owned by Chinese companies, which means that the licensing fees for China to use this standard will be significantly lower than they would be for competing standards developed outside of China Bremner As of a year before the Games, the commitment to 3G and mobile service remained an unsettled question.

Meanwhile, others, including the Chinese government and BOCOG, appear to have realized that the homegrown 3G mobile platform might not be serviceable in time for the Games. The question then became whether it was more important singly to advance the underlying China-developed technology or to demonstrate commitment to having mobile services ready. According to the ministry, mobile phone operators in China would be allowed to choose from all three technologies. First, it increases the chances that 3G services may actually be available during the Olympic Games.

While the mobile services may not be as robust as originally intended, opening its 3G standards will most likely allow China to offer at least limited 3G services during the Games as promised. Internationally, China wants to project an image of fairness in regulating the potentially highly lucrative mobile 3G market in China. Allowing the three 3G platforms not only helps to ensure technological robustness during the Olympics, but can be seen as a positive gesture from China in the information technology global marketplace.

Of course, it is important to keep in mind that state-run China Mobile will most likely be the primary service provider of any 3G services during the Olympics. Once a mobile 3G platform is developed and tested, the Chinese government must decide which mobile phone carriers can provide 3G services in China. China has been reluctant to issue 3G mobile licenses to providers because of a potential major restructuring of the telecommunications industry, which would integrate landline and mobile phone services and determine which operators would receive 3G licenses in China.

However, any industry restructuring is immensely complicated, as three competing regulatory agencies must approve any changes Economist Thus, despite allowing the other international 3G standards to operate in China, by not issuing 3G licenses China continues to inhibit efforts that would allow them to offer 3G services during the Games. When visitors from around the world come to Beijing for the Olympics, they will likely rely on Chinese mobile services.

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